Samuel Aguilar

Wine Director

Samuel Aguilar grew up around the abundance of fresh produce, learning from his mother’s philosophy of simple food made from quality products. His passion for wine blossomed while attending the California Culinary Academy. He worked under previous wine stewards to gain hands-on experience. Furthering his knowledge, Aguilar attended many wine tastings and seminars, which he still does whenever he can.

  • On July 2, 2014
  • On February 28, 2013
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    What are five things I should know about Erna’s Elderberry House?

    Five things you should know about Erna’s Elderberry House are:

    1. Our executive chef Gunnar Thompson creates a five-course tasting menu, which changes nightly. His farm-to-table cuisine allows the Elderberry House to showcase the true gift of local, fresh ingredients found in California’s Central Valley. Upon request, chef Gunnar and his team will accommodate any special dietary need, in addition to offering alternatives for each dish.

    2. Our Wine Cellar, garnered with Wine Spectator’s Best Award of Excellence offers a world of wine at your fingertips, with a strong focus on California vintners. Napa Valley red wines and Rhone varieties from the Central Coast have sparked our attention and continuously find ways to match chef Gunnar’s eclectic style.

    3. Praise in vegetarian and vegan communities has flourished since executive chef Gunnar Thompson started leading our culinary team. Chef Gunnar himself is a vegetarian, and he takes great pride in producing vegetarian and vegan options with creativity and flavor.

    4. Erna’s Elderberry House serves a delicious brunch each Sunday. The four-course brunch includes a seasonal frappe, a fruit course, your choice of three entrées and a delectable dessert. Our signature glass of sparkling wine accompanies a perfect meal, which can be enjoyed in the garden when the weather is favorable.

    5. Each of our three dining rooms is named in honor of the pioneers of French cuisine. Our main dining room, the Escoffier, is named for Auguste Escoffier, a chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized traditional French cooking methods. Our Point Dining Room, in the front of Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant, is named for Fernand Point, who trained a generation of French master chefs. Our smallest room, the Paul Bocuse Dining Room, is named for the French chef known for his innovative approach to cuisine.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    Does Erna’s Elderberry House have a bar menu?

    The bar menu at the Elderberry House Restaurant can be found at the end of the wine list, where we have all of the sprits we carry listed in order. Although the menu does not have a list of cocktails, we stock a full bar and we are able to make any cocktail requested.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    Who is the sommelier of Erna’s Elderberry House?

    The sommelier and wine director for Erna's Elderberry House is Samuel Aguilar. Samuel guides an impressive wine list and works closely with chef Gunnar Thompson. Together they create a spectacular dining experience and each evening Samuel enjoys sharing the world of wine and its history with Elderberry House guests.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    Does Erna’s Elderberry House offer wine pairings?

    Yes. Our sommelier and wine director Samuel Aguilar works carefully with chef Gunnar Thompson to pair dishes with five wines representing a diverse selection from California and around the world. 
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    Does the chef visit the table at Erna’s Elderberry House during the dining experience?

    Executive chef Gunnar Thompson is always curious to discover how you are enjoying your meal here. He will arrive at your table immediately after the last entrée for the evening is served, as he makes sure every dish presented has his seal of approval. He feels more than comfortable in our pastry chef Luisito Gonzales’ ability to delight you with his confections in a charming and timely fashion. Chef Gunnar humbly thanks you for visiting, wishes you a safe journey home and awaits your next visit to Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    What are the five best things to order at Erna’s Elderberry House?

    The five best things to order at Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant are:

    1. As our menu changes nightly, we do advise each of our guests partake in the full menu. Chef Gunnar Thompson’s dishes are never repeated and they are not something you want to miss.

    2. Our nightly wine pairing is prepared by sommelier and wine director Samuel Aguilar. Each selection is carefully chosen to harmonize with the chef’s menu.

    3. We suggest you order the signature cocktail, a glass of Sureau. It is a special sparkling wine with a hint of Elderberry and it is an ideal way to begin your dining experience.

    4. Erna Kubin-Clanin, proprietress, has provided us with signature desserts from family recipes of her Austrian heritage. As our desserts change nightly, we only offer these specific desserts by special request: apple strudel, kaiserschmarren, mohn schupfnudel and salzburger nockerl.

    5. For guests desiring sweets to take home our pastry chef Luisito Gonzales is delighted to create seasonal chocolate truffles. Orders for our famous truffles must be made 48 hours in advance.
     
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    What are the desserts like at Erna’s Elderberry House?

    As a standard set decades ago, our dessert course comes as a trio: composed chocolate, prepared seasonal fruit and sorbet, gelato or sherbet. Our pastry chef Luisito Gonzales works closely with Erna Kubin-Clanin, proprietress, to select pastry recipes from her hometown in Vienna.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    What is the cheese course like at Erna’s Elderberry House?

    Our cheese offering is served after the fourth dish and is presented as a supplement on our nightly tasting menu. We feature cheeses at their peak throughout the seasons. Every night the chef and sommelier review the cheeses, decide which will be best served as a seamless progression with their respective dishes, and find the perfect wine compliment. Two distinct styles are represented — delicate or robust. Within these categories you will find three cheeses well suited in its respective class. You are also welcome to choose three from either style. Our cheese supplement is $12 per person; $20 should you opt for the corresponding wine pairing.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    Does Erna’s Elderberry House offer any low-calorie options?

    At breakfast we always have low fat yogurt, fresh fruits and nonfat breads available. During our dinner service, again, we tailor each menu to our guests’ preferences. Our menu can be designed to meet the requirements of guests wishing to dine in a certain calorie range. Chef Gunnar Thompson utilizes many vegetable purées as substitutes for traditional dairy fats, which adds flavor and lighten the meal allowing for a more comfortable dining experience.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    Does the menu at Erna’s Elderberry House have seasonal dishes?

    The menu at the Elderberry House is the epitome of seasonal cuisine. The menu prepared by our chef Gunnar Thompson is written the night before it is served and is designed to capture local ingredients at the height of ripeness. 
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    Does Erna’s Elderberry House offer any special gifts from the chef?

    At dinner, each guest is provided with an amuse bouche at the beginning of the meal. After the desserts, mignardises are served. Each guest then receives a gift-wrapped special cookie and elderberry tea to take home. After Sunday brunch, guests are given our almond granola and a printed recipe card for the almond granola as a thank-you for choosing Erna’s Elderberry House.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    What is the menu like at Erna’s Elderberry House?

    The menu consists of a five-course prix fixe that changes daily. We serve a fish course, soup course, main entrée, salad or composed cheese course, and desserts in this order. Each menu is tailored for our guests to take into account their preferences, allergies, or sensitivities. The dessert course will contain three separate dishes, a fruit dessert, a chocolate dessert and a frozen dessert. 
  • On September 19, 2012
    Samuel Aguilar answered the question: Samuel Aguilar

    What is the chef at Erna’s Elderberry House’s food philosophy?

    Executive chef Gunnar Tompson aims to treat each ingredient with respect, as he knows many of the people involved in raising the ingredients that appear on our menu. We are surrounded by the Central Valley of California, the finest agricultural area in the Americas. This supplies the restaurant with a year-round array of interesting and delicious produce with natural character.

    Using classical and modern cooking techniques seamlessly shows the balance we try to achieve, providing the greatest result in each preparation. The dishes we present tend to be an integration of ingredients that work together to create a better outcome than the sum of its parts. Ethnic techniques and recipes from most European cultures can be found in our menus as well as some ingredients originally from Asia and the Americas. Cuisine is art and through art we are entertained.